Monday, December 14, 2015

Football Builds Character

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I've never been a major fan of much of anything relating to the state of Texas. I've driven through large expanses of it, though I recognize that the state is so massive that what I've seen is proportionally the rough equivalent  to  how much of the proverbial elephant each blind man took in. The physical appearance of the parts of Texas I've seen wasn't exactly awe-inspiring. I suppose if a person likes the parched southwestern look, there could be a certain appeal to places such as San Angelo or San Antonio. I don't particularly care for that stretch of the Gulf of Mexico, either. I suppose Galveston is charming in its own way, but I cannot imagine a sane person choosing to live there with its level of protection from storms, hurricanes, tsunamis, and the like.

While Texas doesn't have quite the weirdness-per-capita as Florida in terms of bizarre  happenings, it has to its credit a few "only in Texas" sorts of crimes, with the "cheerleading murder" standing out as such. Texas has a reputation for law enforcement and judicial systems being tough on criminals, and, if I'm not mistaken, Texas recently executed the first woman in the U. S. in quite some time. The "don't mess with Texas" mindset is evident. Texas residents are proud of their gun-toting mentality, and like to proclaim in reference to various crimes or supposed abuses of citizens' rights that such a thing would never happen in Texas. (Again if I'm not mistaken, at least one mass shooting at the University of Texas did happen.)

High school football seems to be second only to gun-toting or perhaps to Bible thumping in Texas, if it is indeed second even to either one of the aforementioned pursuits. My mom did  large portion of her doctoral research using Texas-based data.  The focus of her study was on the success rate of grade level retention or repetition when the primary impetus was to provide the retainee with an additional growth year in order to maximize chances of success in football. Ironically, the athletic retention is the one circumstance of grade level retention that isn't more often than not more harmful than beneficial to the retainee himself. I could go into the sociological and psycho-educational ramifications of grade level repetition, but it's too complex an issue to be addressed in the amount of time and space I would have to devote to it at this time. It could be a subject for another day's blog . . . or it could not.

Anyway, Texas came to the forefront too long ago in an incident in which a high school assistant football coach ordered football players to "take out" a referee, allegedly in retaliation for the use of a racial epithet. referee denies ever using the racial epithet. I'm not even sure it matters in terms of the commission of the crime. Certainly no one should be allowed to referee a game who hurls racial epithets at athletes or at anyone else. Once a coach has responded  to the racial insult, which may or may not have actually happened and which the coach did not actually hear, with involving minors in the act of an assault, the conflict has been taken to an entirely different level.

It used to be - and still is in the eyes of the law in most places in the U.S. -- that nothing a person said gave anyone else the legal right to retaliate physically. We know that what can be done legally and what actually will happen are often two entirely different things. While it would be wise to consider one's own well-being before spouting off beyond a certain respectable level, rules or laws consistently came down firmly against whomever chose to take something to the physical level. Now it seems that if a racially charged comment was made or if something was said about one of the battling parties' mothers, rules against physical retaliation do not necessarily hold up and that assault may be considered justified. I wouldn't be all that surprised at some point in the near future to see actual laws revised to reflect this modern way of thinking.

I'm not suggesting that anyone should make racially insensitive comments or comments of any other sort intended to inflame an already charged situation or to hurt someone. I don't think I've ever in my life spoken a racial epithet.  And yes, I know all about the "yelling fire in a crowded theatre" qualifier of free speech. But even if a person does yell "fire" in a crowded theatre -- either literally or metaphorically speaking -- does that give another the right to assault the person?

The coach had other options when he learned of the alleged use of a racial epithet. If such indeed happened,  why did the coaching staff not complain through more official channels. The assistant coach  could first of all have referred the situation to his immediate job superior, who would have been in this situation the team's head coach. Perhaps the head coach might have chosen to immediately pull players off the field and to refuse to continue the game until the epithet-spouting referee was replaced.  Perhaps the battle could have been waged by school administrators or athletic commissioners. Almost anything would have been preferable to ordering adolescent boys to exact their own revenge by committing assault.

As a victim of physical assault at the hands and feet of a football player (an off-the-field player in my case, but a football player nonetheless), I resent the excuse that acts of violence happen in the "heat of the game." That sort of justification led indirectly to my own assault. I refuse to cower to any Neanderthal rationalization that football is a world of its own with its own rules, and that women have no grasp of it and, hence, no right to criticize football-induced  profanity, violence, or anything else associated with it because we're not part of that world.

The situation should be investigated if only to ensure that if the referee in question did indeed use racial epithets in an officiating or other educational capacity, he does not gain another opportunity to repeat his performance. We have no evidence at this point other than the word of an unethical and unprofessional coach (who did not hear the epithet) and of students involved in the retaliation and of one of their teammates that such did happen. For the good of  the youth in the state of  Texas, a thorough investigation should take place.

As far as the coach is concerned, however, he has, in my opinion, no standing in terms any demands of exoneration by virtue of anything the referee may or may not have said. When he chose to take the conflict to the level that he did, he forfeited that right. Neither do I hold the athletes who physically committed the assault blameless. They had to know, unless they are  literal morons, that they were not under any obligation to follow the assistant coach's unsportsmanlike, immoral, and illegal directive. They, too, should face stiff consequences.


  1. One year in Texas was enough for me. Just so you know, San Antonio does have trees and Houston looks almost like where I grew up. It has deciduous trees and everything.

    I agree with you about violence and how being in a game doesn't give someone license to be violent.

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